Sleep Advice for Pregnant women

As a pregnant woman’s body is on its ever changing course through pregnancy, she might find that she is becoming less able to maintain her sleep for long periods of time.  This can cause anxiety and feelings of helplessness as sleep evades her.  Some sleep issues are caused by worrying about not getting enough sleep, which can create a horrible cycle in of your mind not settling, so your body can’t settle.  Insomnia can’t hurt you or your baby. Plus, sometimes just letting go of the worry is all it takes to help you sleep.  The key to get past this time of restlessness is to find some sort of quiet relaxation that might distract you and get you to focus on something for a little while while your mind relaxes.

Our body clocks are influenced by artificial light (TV, computer, phone screens, etc.) and it can affect your natural melatonin levels even up to two hours before bed!  Quiet reading with a low light or listening to some quiet music might help as your evening winds down.  Wearing a sleep mask and getting a white noise machine might help reduce the outside distractions.   You may feel warmer than usual when you’re pregnant, so keep your room on the cool side. Chamomile tea helps as well as having a calming routine and strict bedtime, that means preparing to have a down time before bed time, stretching to help relax muscles, a good massage (from your personal massage therapist ) won’t hurt.   If you’re in the habit of paying bills or watching television in bed, stop. Reserve your bed for other enjoyable activities like sleep, sex, and light reading. A bath is one of the best ways to relax before bed, along with a glass of warm milk.

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as bread or crackers, can also promote sleep. In addition, a snack high in protein can keep blood sugar levels up and could help prevent bad dreams, headaches, and hot flashes.  Completely eliminate caffeine and alcohol to prevent insomnia. If nausea is a problem for you, try eating frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day. Keeping your stomach slightly full helps keep nausea at bay. Eat a well-balanced diet. Not only is this crucial for your health and that of your baby, but getting the necessary nutrients will help keep you feeling satisfied — which will help you sleep more soundly. Drink more fluids early in the day and less in the evening. This helps reduce bathroom breaks in the middle of the night.

To prevent heartburn, don’t recline for an hour or two after a meal. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows. Also, avoid spicy, fried, or acidic foods (such as tomato products), as they may worsen symptoms.

Pillows can be used to support both the tummy and back. A pillow between the legs can help support the lower back and make sleeping on your side easier. Some specific types of pillows include the wedge-shaped pillow and the full-length body pillow. Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on the left side. Because your liver is on the right side of your abdomen, lying on your left side helps keep the uterus off that large organ. Sleeping on the left side also improves circulation to the heart and allows for the best blood flow to the fetus, uterus, and kidneys. Ask what your doctor recommends — in most cases, lying on either side should do the trick and help take some pressure off your back.

Regular exercise during pregnancy promotes physical and mental health. Exercise also can help you sleep more deeply. However, vigorous exercise within four hours of bedtime should be avoided. If a leg cramp awakens you, it may help to press your feet hard against the wall or to stand on the leg. Also, make sure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, which can help reduce leg cramps.

A daily dose of calcium/magnesium before bed can help with restlessness and anxiety (although, you need to speak to your care provider before taking any supplement that I might suggest.)  But don’t rely on over-the-counter, prescription or herbal pills or alcohol to help you sleep, especially without the consent from your doctor. These are dangerous during pregnancy. There is also magnesium in Epsom Salt, which can be added to a bath.  Lavender oil for aromatherapy is helpful, even putting some chamomile tea bags inside your pillowcase can help soothe your senses with it’s aroma.

There is a great CD from Hypnobabies that you can get from Amazon that has some very helpful meditations.

And Meditation Oasis has a free podcast on Itunes, a few of which are meditations about relaxing and connecting with your baby.  Some form of meditation would definitely help if added to your bedtime routine and it will also help you start to focus on thinking about that as one form of comfort during labor.

Acupuncture is amazing for both relaxation and sleep.  Many pregnant women utilize acupuncture, especially in the third trimester.  I would really suggest looking into doing a few sessions of acupuncture if you can.

If fear and anxiety are keeping you awake, consider enrolling in a childbirth or parenting class. More knowledge and the company of other pregnant women may help to ease the fears that are keeping you awake at night.

Of course, there are bound to be times when you just can’t sleep. Instead of tossing and turning, worrying that you’re not asleep, and counting the hours until your alarm clock will go off, get up and do something: read a book, listen to music, watch TV, catch up on letters or email, or pursue some other activity you enjoy. Eventually, you’ll probably feel tired enough to get back to sleep.

Though most people do best on eight hours of sleep, some do fine on less and some need more. So instead of aiming for a particular number of sleep hours — ask yourself how you’re feeling on the hours you’re sleeping during pregnancy. If you’re not chronically tired, you may be getting enough rest.

The most important thing is that you feel like you are in a good space mentally.  If you are having any worries about your emotional well being, it is really important to talk about that with your care provider.  Please make sure you are eating well and resting as much as possible.  If you are having any feelings that might make you worried about perinatal depression, it is really important to talk to your doctor.  Another resource for that is  (This is a great site for depression at any stage of pregnancy and postpartum.)

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